“This is Captain Baro Jath of the Galewing, hailing the…” Baro checked the name again. “…Sinchi Logistics Hub, number twelve. Can you–”
“Please stand by, Galewing,” the voice on the other end interrupted, his tone obviously desperate. “We have a situation on our hands.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Baro said without opening his communicator again just yet. “…Sinchi, I can see your ‘situation’ from here. Can you redirect my ship to a safe landing zone? We’re carrying relief supplies for your citizens.”
Behind him, Eilen and Zujenia returned to the cockpit, their eyes both immediately drawn to the view below. Though the people were hardly more than dots from where they stood, the riot they were in was almost certain.
The Kel Dor glanced briefly at the hybrid ladies, then turned his attention back to the helm. No response yet. He grunted, almost annoyed, then made to improvise for the time being. As he stretched a hand across the controls for altitude adjustment, it quickly retracted as Eilen slipped back into the copilot’s seat and halted their descent herself.
A long, speckled finger pointed toward a few other freighters visible in the air. “Give us some distance, but follow their flight pattern.” Eilen nodded wordlessly and ran her jittery fingers over altitude control again. The Galewing tilted right, then slowly arced left, beginning a wide circle around the perimeter of the city below.
With their trajectory stable, Baro turned his chair to face the other two. “Seems you’ve got a real problem happening on the ground. The Hub isn’t letting anybody land right now. Did you know it was getting this bad?”
Zujenia looked back to her datapad, still struck with disbelief. “Why…” She blinked, then cleared her throat. “We’ve had some problems and outbursts from the shortages, but we haven’t had to shut down anything this big.” Her eyes continued glancing through the reports coming through from the city. She sat behind Eilen before speaking up again.
“Some of the rioters have raided supply ships at the landing pads. They’re stealing cargo and-- they’re turning violent… We’ve already had some of our workers attacked, and countless droids damaged or…” The half-Ryn shook her head with a sad sigh.
Just behind the cockpit doorway, Baro’s silent droid turned its head curiously. Its body began to hum as it pulled itself out of low-power settings. “Am I needed, sir?” the looming droid asked.
Baro glanced at ZT-57, then held up a hand to gesture for it to wait. “Why haven’t your police, or military force, whatever - Why haven’t they responded?”
“They’re spread thin all across the city,” Zujenia continued, looking back at the datapad. “The riots are crying out about… Force-users.” She glanced up at Eilen, who’s ears flicked low as her head twitched around to listen more closely. “Someone, somehow, might have slipped, or-or tipped someone off, I don’t know, but Clan is keeping silent. Eilen, we have to be careful. These rioters are attacking people all across Estle City who they think might be Force-users.”
A long exhale sounded through Baro’s mask. The Kel Dor took a moment to run his fingers beneath his hat, rubbing his head.
Beside him, Eilen’s head sunk an inch as she glanced to her father figure, then back out of the cockpit. “Why here though?” she asked, her voice concerned. “Th-the Sinchi Logistics Hub is one of the places that’s supposed to be helping these people! Why would they want to steal supplies we’re already giving to them?”
Baro shook his head. “There comes a point in desperation when people stop differentiating between a hand offered to themselves, and and a hand offered to their enemies. For all they know, our supplies are going straight to the Citadel’s people. And for all they care, the Citadel’s people are all Force-users conspiring against them. Our ship is just a hand for the taking.”
“Well, then, why can’t we just land and give it all to them?”
“Because when you toss a slice of meat between a pack of starving beasts, they’ll fight each other for it. We’re here to help supplement the relief effort, but we can’t resolve it.”
A variety of unfortunate outcomes played out in Eilen’s head as she considered her old master’s words. Her ears sunk lower in disappointment. “…So what do we do?”
Zujenia turned off her datapad, having read enough. The half-Ryn clearly had a lot running through her head. “…We have to try and help the workers at the Hub; they’re completely overrun. And whatever we do, the supplies we have need to get into the hands of the right people who can distribute them fairly throughout the city. There’s got to be a safe place we can bring them, or at least a way to tell the rioters we’re here to help and just to back off for a minute…”
Baro tilted his head. “I like your consideration, but doing all of that at once is very likely out of our hands.” He glanced back out of the cockpit for a moment, peering at the Citadel from afar for something he probably couldn’t see.
“…What if we can make our own safe place?” Eilen piped up. When the others turned her way, her fingers twittered together aimlessly. “…Uh… Well, uh… If we can, just… create a distraction, something that will disperse the riot in, I dunno, just a small spot… maybe this ship can land, unload, aaannd lift back off before things get bad for us.”
To her side, Zujenia’s brow arched. “What sort of distraction are you talking about?”
Before Eilen could think of an answer, Baro turned back to the helm and took control of the Galewing again. “Lower the ship, Eilen. Just to get close…” Zujenia felt herself pushed against the back of her seat as the ship flew closer to the Citadel.
As they circled around the mountain the city was built upon, Baro pulled them in closer as they approached the Hub where they intended to land, and ignored the broadcast ping that came up from the communications towers below. His eyes only briefly glanced back at the controls as he studied the landing pads and their surroundings. To no one’s surprise, the rioting looked far worse up close, leaving Eilen and Zujenia both discomforted, but Baro was focused, looking for something else within the chaos. After a close flyby over all of Sinchi Logistics Hub 12, the Galewing tilted the other way and pulled off, quickly putting distance between itself and the sloped grounds of Estle City once more.
“What was that about?” Zujenia asked as the rioters below shrunk.
“Just a sec,” Baro responded, finally reaching for the broadcast ping. “Hey,” he said to the ship’s communicator before whoever was on the other end could speak. “This is Captain Jath of the Galewing, calling back.”
“Captain, please stand by, or your ship–”
“Hey, hey, look, just listen,” Baro interrupted, almost smugly after getting no better from his first call, “All disregarded warnings aside, my crew and I are prepared to offer assistance, if you can work with us up here. We have a possible plan to get our supplies down to you, and maybe we can do more once we get there.”
Zujenia looked to Eilen for some kind of answer, but the furred girl only returned an equally questioning glance. There was a long pause before anyone spoke again, and it was a new voice coming through the ship’s communicator.
“What would you need from us, Galewing?” it said calmly.
“I just need to know if there’s a safe place where you’re keeping all of your supplies going out to the city.”
After another pause, the new voice returned. “We’ve managed to keep our mass storage facility locked down from the riots. Most of the guards the Citadel could spare for us are keeping it secure. The only people passing through are armed escorts moving relief supplies out, but rioters have completely surrounded it.”
When the voice stopped talking, Baro glanced to Eilen, who was fidgeting like she had something to say. “I-- I know where that is! I can get us there after we, you know, get on the ground.”
“That’s my girl,” Baro uttered with a hint of pride.
“Galewing, what exactly is it that you’re planning?” the voice on the other end asked.
The Kel Dor took a few seconds to gather his thoughts again. “My crew and I are preparing a distraction that should move the rioters off from the landing pads, but only briefly.” Eilen might have been the only one who could detect Baro’s forced tone of confidence as he spoke. “If it works, we might have a chance for my ship and a couple others in the sky with me to get our supplies out to you. We’ll need your storage guards to be ready to receive a lot of cargo.”
“And your ‘distraction’, Captain?”
“You’ll know it when you see it. Just don’t freak out.” Baro cut off the communicator just as the other voice began a retort. “…They’re not gonna like me when they see it,” he added for only Eilen and Zujenia to hear, rubbing his head again.
The half-Ryn’s expression suddenly grew stern. “And why is that?”
“That, uh… happens with him, sometimes,” Eilen quietly commented.
With a long breath, Baro pointed blindly back to where the Citadel would be if it were in his view. “A lot of the skiffs and machinery operated by droids have been attacked or abandoned. I spotted a few empty ones along the docks, not too close to the people, but certainly close enough. I’m… going to blast them.”
Zujenia was shocked. “What?!”
“No collateral damage, I promise you that,” Baro quickly assured. “A demonstration of firepower should scatter the crowds and send them running. Of course, some of them might come back once the ship is set down and my canons get suck with a blind spot, but we should at least have enough of a window to land and unload. If we’re lucky, maybe two of these other ships can do the same.” His speckled digits gestured back to the other ships circling the city.
None of this changed the look on Zujenia’s face. “You’re insane. We can’t open fire on rioters, that could–”
“I’m not going to be shooting at them, just at something they can see.”
“There has to be a better way!”
“Do you have one in mind?”
“Yes!” The half-Ryn stood up, her stance firm. “Negotiation. We can talk them down - we have to!”
Baro’s head slanted, unconfident. “You can’t just talk down a riot that’s gone violent.”
“Well-- What they’re doing, they have to know that the Hub is one of their best chances at getting fresh supplies. Not through looting, not through attacking each other, but through fair distribution, and there has to be a way to convince them to let us get our supplies down and sorted out!”
Even behind his mask, the Kel Dor’s expression was clearly not convinced.
Between them, Eilen finally spoke up again. “I… I guess, if anyone could, well, make that work, it could be her. I mean, she was one of the House leaders for a while.”